The Gas Station's Out Of Gas: A Communications Case

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASometimes an everyday encounter can teach you something about communications.

Case in point – a trip to the gas station the other night. I pulled my car up to the pump, got out, swiped the card, typed in my zip code, selected my choice of fuel, put the spigot in the car and pulled the lever. No gas came out.

I tried the whole process again and again, but nothing. I figured the pump must be broken so I cancelled the transaction, drove around to another pump and tried it all over and again, nothing. I began to wonder at that point if maybe there was something going on with the gas station. I looked around at all of the pumps and didn’t see any signs or even scribbled pieces of paper taped to pumps. The clerk inside hadn’t said anything over the PA system while I went from pump to pump. Finally, after apparently reading the frustration on my face and with my body language, a woman in another car pulled down her window to tell me “they’re out of gas.”

How often do we see something like this – a business not communicating to its customers? Unfortunately, it happens all the time. My educated guess is that there’s no process in place at that business to let customers know when something like this happens. Instead of communicating, the clerk inside just sells sugary drinks, junk food and rolling papers while customers get frustrated outside. The “it’s not my problem” attitude prevails.

So think about your business. What’s your equivalent of your gas station being out of gas? What’s supposed to happen in the event of that scenario? Who is responsible? What are the chances of your plan, if there is one, actually being implemented? If not, you’ll make it really easy for customers to drive down the street.